Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last Week
One of the best picture books that I have read this year. Kate Hosford has created a wonderful story about a little girl who looks at the stars and wonders about something that can go last forever. Gabi Swiatkowska's illustrations are equally brilliant as well. 

My second graders love Freddie Ramos. I think some of them may be dressing like him on our Book Character Day this Wednesday. I have read the first two books in the series to my class and they are itching for the next book. My students easily relate to Freddie and the triumphs and challenges in his life. This is a terrific series for late first grade/second grade readers. 

This Week
We're beginning a unit on elections this week and this new title will be a big help. The narrator and her classmates are excited about the upcoming election. Several children take turns mixing history and their personal connections to voting to help illuminate readers as to why this is such an important day. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Infinity and Me

Infinity and Me
written by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
2012 (Carolrhoda Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links.

As kids, infinity would usually enter into our conversations when we were trying to top each other with an amount. I might say that I could put 3 pieces of bubble gum into my mouth and my friend would boast that he could put 4 into his mouth. The numbers would climb in our back and forth until someone said "infinity" and that settled it. You couldn't top infinity. We didn't have much of a clue about the concept of infinity except that it was the ultimate way to end an argument. Our understanding would have been greatly enhanced if we would have had a copy of Infinity and Me. It would have also saved us the pain of jamming ridiculous amounts of bubble gum into our mouths and looking like chipmunks on steroids.

In the beginning of this wonderful new picture book, Uma is sitting outside staring at the sky. She's too excited to sleep as she is the owner of a new pair of red shoes that are waiting to be shown off at school. The night sky takes her attention off of the shoes and on the notion of infinity. Uma wonders, "How many are the stars in the sky? A million? A billion?" It hits her that the number may be as big as infinity. From here, she goes on a quest to learn about infinity. Her friend Charlie suggests that infinity is a big number that just keeps growing and growing and can never be counted. Uma's best friend Samantha thinks of the symbol, the sideways figure 8, as a racetrack where you can drive around forever. Grandma thinks of a family that continues to grow and go on forever. Uma realizes that forever and infinity are intertwined. Forever seems like a really long time. Would she like to have recess forever? How about being eight forever or having a ice cream cone that could be licked for infinity? These are big questions. She also notices that no one has commented on her new red shoes. Fortunately, with her Grandma's help, Uma finds a solution to problems related to numbers and shoes.

Infinity and Me left me infinitely content. With this book, you get a kid friendly explanation of a deep concept inside a terrific story. As a teacher, I love how this text will be able to help students take their thinking to another level. I would ask, "What situations in your life might make you think of infinity?" Possible answers could include taking a standardized test or waiting in line at the grocery store. I've attended some weddings (not my own!) where I may have pondered infinity. Gabi Swiatkowska's excellent illustrations will definitely help students visualize the idea of infinity. It would be fun and challenging to create a booklet of drawings that illustrate each student's interpretation of infinity. To paraphrase a rather famous animated astronaut, Infinity and Me will take you beyond your expectations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Through Time: London

Through Time: London
written by Richard Platt; illustrated by Manuela Cappon
2009 (Kingfisher)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Hope Is The Word

London starts off with a time line with illustrated inserts. This time line goes from 3500 B.C. to present day. What follows are 18 spectacular two page spreads that show London in different stages of history. Each spread has two-three paragraphs of text that provide background information for the time period featured. For example, in the section titled Boudicca Attacks! A.D. 60, we learn about the Celtic queen who  leads an army that burns down London. It doesn't end well for this queen however as the Romans regroup and defeat her army and she poisons herself. The text is informative, but the main attraction is the detailed maps on each spread that come with labels and captions that provide more facts. It's as if you are in a helicopter and hovering over the area. Richard Platt provides a thorough history starting with a Neolithic camp set next to the Thames River. The Romans invade as well as the Black Plague over a thousand years afterward. William Shakespeare's London is a featured spread as well as Georgian London of 1783 and The Blitz of 1940. Queen Victoria and the mods of the 60's also make appearances. The book ends with a landscape of both the historic (St. Paul's Cathedral) and the brand new of buildings constructed for the recent Summer Olympics.

If you have students who like to draw, this would be a great book to put in their hands. They could construct a spread of their hometown complete with historical notes. One of the big themes of social studies, change over time, could easily be illustrated by sharing this book.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poetry Friday: October's Bright Blue Weather

Photograph by Sanchezn

We're studying weather in second grade so this poem seemed an appropriate choice for today. Check out Poetry Friday at Live Your Poem

October's Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson

O suns and skies and clouds of June, 
And flowers of June together, 
Ye cannot rival for one hour 
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste, 
Belated, thriftless vagrant, 
And goldenrod is dying fast, 
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight 
To save them for the morning, 
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs 
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie 
In piles like jewels shining, 
And redder still on old stone walls 
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things 
Their white-winged seeds are sowing, 
And in the fields still green and fair, 
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks, 
In idle golden freighting, 
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush 
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts, 
By twos and twos together, 
And count like misers, hour by hour, 
October's bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June, 
Count all your boasts together, 
Love loveth best of all the year 
October's bright blue weather.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts

Last Week

I have been reading some terrific early reader books. Shown below are a few that I particularly enjoyed. All of these books are full of humor and great friendships.

This Week
My wife and daughters oohed and aahed when they viewed Through Time:London by Richard Platt.

As a classroom teacher, this is one of my favorite book titles of 2012: Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril. Having survived many picture day perils, I can't wait to read another Lunch Lady adventure.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bink and Gollie: Two for One

Bink and Gollie: Two for One
written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile
2012 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Mebane Public Library

It's not often when a sequel is as good or better than the first in a series. Here comes an exception. Bink and Gollie: Two for One is funny, sweet, and so so smart. In this set of three stories, the best friends head for the state fair. The first story, Whack a Duck, has Bink trying to throw a baseball at rows of ducks in order to win the world's largest donut. It doesn't go well. Bink's innocence is the perfect partner to Gollie's droll comments that made me laugh out loud. Tony Fucile's illustrations are so expressive, they could carry the story on their own. If you have ever lost at an amusement park game, this story will make you feel better. You're Special, Aren't You?, the second story, has Gollie endeavoring to participate in a talent show at the fair. The best friends are the ones who stick with us when life doesn't go as planned. Bink is such a friend. The ending scene involving cows and poetry is a touching one. Fucile's illustrations perfectly capture the fear and loneliness of being on stage. Two for One wraps up with Without a Question. Bink is interested in finding something to ride while Gollie is bent on meeting destiny. Off the beaten path is Madame Prunely who "tells all" while gazing into her crystal ball. What the two friends learn is what they already know, and that is all that is needed.

Early readers will love the physical humor in Two for One. There are also great lessons on friendship and kindness in these stories. As a teacher, I could use this book to teach a lesson on using dialogue in your writing and another one on how illustrations are a vital part of telling a story.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Autumn Wind

The Autumn Wind
The Autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
Swaggering boisterously.
His face is weatherbeaten.
He wears a hooded sash
With a silver hat about his head
And a bristling black mustache.
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He'll knock you 'round and upside down
And laugh when he's conquered and won.

 - Steve Sabol

Steve Sabol and his father Ed revolutionized how we view professional sports in America with their company, NFL Films. Steve died last month at the age of 69. One of his most memorable pieces was this poem that he wrote in 1974 for a film about the Oakland Raiders football team. For students who aren't normally drawn to the study of poetry, this might not be a bad start to show that anything can be the subject of a poem. 

Check out Poetry Friday with Betsy at Teaching Young Writers

Thursday, October 11, 2012

STEM Friday: The Wing Wing Brothers Math Spectacular!

The Wing Wing Brothers Math Spectacular!
written and illustrated by Ethan Long
2012 (Holiday House)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links

The Wing Wing Brothers are not a new chicken snack franchise, but instead a group of winged brothers who are no bird brains. These Fibonacci-like fowl put on an unprecedented math show for children of all ages. Walter, Wendell, Willy, Wilmer, and Woody put on a stage show in three acts. Act One features plate spinning to help youngsters with pesky greater than, less than, and equal equations. The end of the act is a smashing success that is unequaled. Act Two has a plethora of pie juggling and throwing to show students how addition and subtraction work. Willy is the superstar of this act with a surprise finish sure to please. The final act brings more addition and subtraction prestidigitation. What could be better for this than the magic box disappearing act? You can do quite a bit of addition and subtraction with this device. The ending of the show will leave audience members aghast.

Any time that you can add humor to a sometimes difficult subject like mathematics, it is greatly appreciated by teachers and parents. After reading this book, I could see students developing their own skits that illustrate addition and subtraction equations. The Wing Wing brothers will help young math students better understand the acts of putting together and taking apart in mathematics.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts

Last Week

It's been another busy week in Mr. Barger's second grade. First, we're reading picture books in writer's workshop to think about small moment versus big moment stories. Two Cynthia Rylant stories were helpful in this cause:
(Big moment)                                                          (Small moment)

Another small moment story that was well enjoyed was Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DeCosta and illustrated by Ed Young. The goal of the ninja's mission, ice cream, can not be underestimated. 

I'm also reading easy readers and early chapter books for my role as a Cybils Round 1 judge. I enjoy reading nominated books to share with my students. 

Coming up this week


Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Can a Crane Pick Up?

What Can a Crane Pick Up?
written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; illustrated by Mike Lowery
2012 (Alfred A. Knopf)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links

What would a K-2 student say about a book that includes heavy machinery, space flight, mummies, and underwear? After giggling for five minutes after the mention of "underwear", they would think it was a pretty cool book. And they would be right. What Can a Crane Pick Up? is a rhyming book that combines factual information and a touch of the absurd. Read this rhyme if you don't believe me:

What else can a crane lift high in the air?
A sunken ship, a polar bear, and boxes and boxes and boxes of underwear.

Yes, we know that a crane can pick up many things, but we don't think to combine ships, polar bears, and underwear. It's like a kid's version of David Letterman dropping stuff off a tower. This book just screams fun  with the text and illustrations. But there are some sneaky lessons here as well. I would use this book with students who are just beginning to learn the concept of theme. They could write a sentence that expresses the big idea of the book. It would also go well with a unit on simple machines. In the book, there is a wide variety of punctuation printed in a big colorful font so you could also read this book and model fluent reading with expression. I promise you that What Can a Crane Pick Up? will be one of your most popular read aloud selections of the year in a K-2 classroom.

Other reviews:
A Year of Reading